Sparrow workers move forward with strike authorization vote

A union representing workers at Lansing, Mich.-based Sparrow Health System began a strike authorization vote Nov. 16.

The vote covers about 2,200 members of the Professional Employee Council of Sparrow Hospital, a local of the Michigan Nurses Association, who have been without a contract since Oct. 31, according to a union news release. Members include nurses, pharmacists and laboratory scientists. Voting is scheduled to run through Nov. 21. 

The union said its members seek wages that keep up with the rising cost of living as well as fair healthcare benefits.

"All we are asking for is a fair contract that will allow us to recruit and retain caregivers," Katie Pontifex, a nurse at Sparrow Hospital and president of the local union, said in a news release. "While a strike is always a last resort, we are willing to do what it takes to make sure that we will always be able to provide the highest quality of care. We are advocating for our patients and our community."

If union members vote in favor of strike authorization, it would allow the union to call a strike. A 10-day notice would be provided to Sparrow before a strike would occur.

A statement from Sparrow Hospital said the hospital does not want a strike and believes nothing the hospital has proposed warrants one. 

"Our caregivers remain essential to our ability to provide the highest quality care, and we are grateful for their commitment to their patients and to Sparrow Hospital," the statement reads. "We hope they will not be convinced to walk out on the patients and families who depend on them to provide high-quality, compassionate care, especially as we experience another COVID surge. Our ability to continue to protect the community, as we have done throughout the pandemic and through our entire 125 years, would be impacted by a walkout."

If a strike does take place, hospital representatives said the hospital is "fully prepared and equipped to continue serving our patients and the community. The care, safety and comfort of our patients will continue to be our top priority."

Bargaining at Sparrow Hospital comes amid a COVID-19 surge in Michigan. New daily COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state have increased 22 percent over the last two weeks, according to data tracked by The New York Times

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